University of Missouri Looks Back on Racial Tensions

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COLUMBIA - In 1939, Lloyd Gaines was denied admission into the University of Missouri Law School because he was an African American. The Supreme Court ruled MU had to either admit him or open a separate African American school. MU picked the latter option and did not begin integrating the Columbia campus until 1950.

Nearly 15 years later, Deputy Chancellor Michael Middleton first arrived as a student. He said his experiences were vastly different than today.

"The race relations were difficult," Middleton said. "Minority students, particularly black students felt very isolated. We pretty much stuck together socially because that was generally the only social outlet available."

More than forty years after Middleton graduated, African American student Julian Bowman said he had a very different experience at MU and the school exposed him to a more diverse environment than he had experienced growing up.

"I grew up in South Carolina where diversity was basically black and white," Bowman said. "I interacted with people here from different backgrounds and the diversity of Mizzou is what prepared me for the real world."

Middleton highlighted past setbacks at the university recently, such as a racial slur spray painted in graffiti on a statue outside Hatch Hall, but he said those problems will continue to become less and less common.

"Time will take care of those issues I think we're on the right track and in time we'll get to where we need to be," Middleton said.

Middleton also said he thought school programs like One Mizzou helped students become more accepting of all differences.